I believe this topic to be important, so I wish to revisit it again.
I have previously written about the happiness of reading, a pleasure I hope everyone, or at least, most people experience. As I wrote before, I consider reading to be one of the main joys of life. Reading is one of the most essential and, at the same time, the most sublime of pleasures. Reading can take us places we have never been, tell us stories we have not known, and let us experience the lives of many other people.
In addition to the pleasures of reading, I also want to consider the benefits of reading. I think the first, and perhaps most obvious, value is that of education. Regardless of where the reading is done, or if it is for class or for self, all reading informs the reader in some way. As a Professor of English Literature, I teach many books in my courses at Lehigh University and the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College–and for me, this is one of the most fulfilling parts of my life, to share books and explore them with students.
While there are a myriad of ways to learn in life, reading still stands out as the primary, and most efficient, way of gaining information. (I am not in any way discounting the importance of learning through experience.) Readers can learn about areas of study that exist far outside of their particular areas of understanding or expertise. For example, I am a student of English literature, but I love reading books about quantum mechanics and the extraordinarily esoteric world of String Theory. I do not understand these ideas the way a physicist would, but I can still appreciate the ideas from books aimed at intelligent, non-specialist readers. Such reading allows the book lover to explore an almost unlimited range of ideas.
In addition to education, I think there is a second and equally important value to reading. I have read numerous articles recently about studies suggesting that people, who read, especially fiction, develop more empathy than those who do not read (Chiaet). The overall point of the results of this study, as well as others, is that people who read fiction tend to learn to identify with other human beings and their problems. This is what many of our parents taught to us when they said that we needed to learn to walk in the shoes of other people. It is the basic idea of trying to understand how other people think and feel. Even without these scientific studies, I would assert that fiction helps us to develop empathy.
What do you think about this? Do any of you have other suggestions about the benefits of reading? I would enjoy seeing your ideas.
Chiaet, Julianne. “Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy.” Scientific
American.Com. October 4, 2013. Web.